The Secret Ingredient to the Richest, Creamiest Soup (Without Adding Cream)

creamy soup

Chef Jacques Pépin is a go-to source for effortless recipes and useful tips. Thanks to him, we've learned how to make better scrambled eggsFrench toast and elegant French-style deviled eggs. And we recently found another clever cooking lesson from the legendary chef: how to make thick and creamy soup every time.

One of the best things about Pépin's tips is that they're extremely practical, and this one is no exception. He gravitates toward grocery store products that are readily available, shelf-stable and easy to use. The secret ingredient for thickening creamy soups? According to the French chef, it's instant mashed potato flakes.

Related: 100+ Sensational Soup Recipes to Warm You Up This Winter and Year-Round

Why Add Mashed Potato Flakes to Creamy Soups?

In his cookbook and on an episode of his cooking show, Pépin adds a cup of instant mashed potato flakes to thicken a cream of leek and mushroom soup, a nod to a potato-based soup his mother and grandmother used to make. In this recipe, leeks are cooked in a little oil to soften for a few minutes and the soup is finished with stock and instant mashed potato flakes for a velvety smoothness and thickness.

The reason this works? Science. Once exposed to liquid and heat, the starchy potato granules gelatinize, adding thickness to the soup. On the flavor front, mashed potato flakes bump up the potatoey richness and flavor without the need to peel and boil potatoes.

Related: Best Creamy Mashed Potatoes

How to Thicken Soup with Instant Mashed Potato Flakes

Use 1 cup of instant mashed potato flakes per 4 to 5 cups of liquid. Whisk the potato flakes into the boiling broth and serve it right away or let it sit to thicken even more. If the soup gets too thick, Pépin loosens it with a little bit of warm milk.

We love this tip because instant potato flakes are easier to work with than other common thickeners, like a roux (which needs to be cooked first) or cornstarch slurry (which needs to be whisked with water).

Related: The Korean Trick for the Crispiest, Crunchiest Chicken Wings

Best Soups to Thicken with Instant Mashed Potato Flakes

Instant mashed potato flakes may be substituted for fresh potatoes in any soup, but is also a handy shortcut for thickening other creamy-ish soups and stews that could use a bit more body, such as cream of broccoli soup, Instant Pot lentils, or Japanese curry. This may go without saying, but we're gonna say it: You'll want to skip the instant potatoes in delicate, lighter-bodied soups like miso and French onion.

Related: The One Ingredient That Makes Ina Garten's Tomato Soup a Must-Make

What Else Can Instant Mashed Potato Flakes Do?

This hack is especially helpful for slow cooker and pressure cooker recipes. Unlike stove-cooked dishes, meals cooked in these appliances don’t experience much evaporation so the cooking liquids tend to stay thin. A spoonful of potato flakes added at the end will thicken things right up.

Instant mashed potato flakes are also useful in bread recipes to prevent a dry loaf, and as a binding agent in meatloaf/meatball mixes or seafood burgers. If you’re out of Panko breadcrumbs, try using potato flakes to bread your meats and veggies. Gravy too runny? Potato flakes to the rescue!

Once you have a box of mashed potato flakes in your pantry, you’ll be surprised at how many uses you find for them. You might even make mashed potatoes!

Up next: The Secret Ingredient for Making Salmon That Tastes Like It Came From a Restaurant